Very Very (Very!) Early Thoughts On (New) Author Earnings Report

Indie-pub wunderkind and author advocate Hugh Howey released this:

Author Earnings dot com.

It aims to provide (admittedly self-selecting) data about author earnings — a subject that has made a lot of hay in the last month or two — and further seems to want to shine a stronger, more data-driven light on the earnings of self-published authors in particular.

I am all for more data, and in this, I respect the effort mightily.

Every piece of data an author has is better than having no data at all.

That said, it’s also important to have some scrutiny of that data.

Data — er, “data” — after all, is easy to come by on the Internet.

Less easy is data that is true, and meaningful, and supports conclusions.

So: is this data all that?

Answer unclear, ask again later.

I’ll note a few things here, and then turn it over to you to let you folks (translation: someone smarter than me please take a look at it and offer your thoughts, willya?).

a) This data is entirely about Amazon, which remains the apparent leader in e-books, is by no means the entire picture in terms of bookselling in general. That skews this as being useful data regarding e-books and e-publishing (and author-publishing in particular), but maybe less so as a big picture than hoped? Point is: Amazon is a big fish, but not the only fish.

b) This data is extrapolated — meaning, no actual numbers, right? It’s taking data from (do I have this right?) a single day’s worth of rankings and from that deducing sales numbers for that day and then, by proxy, a whole year? (Graph here. Text: “The next thing we wanted to do was estimate yearly e-book earnings for all of these authors based on their daily Amazon sales.”) In my experience, those websites that attempt to extrapolate sales data using Amazon ranking numbers have been faulty. Hell, even Bookscan numbers are kinda fucked up (which is, itself, fucked up, BUT HEY WELCOME TO PUBLISHING WHERE NOBODY HAS VITAL INFORMATION).

c) It’s only pulling from bestseller lists on Amazon. This means we don’t have data on everything that isn’t… bestselling, right? Still useful to know and see what it means for those books up there at the top in terms of how many are indie and how many are not — it’s more indie than you think.

d) Because of limited scope, fails to capture ways that authors can make other money with a single book — foreign rights, film/TV rights, etc. That’s true on both sides of publishing, though likely moreso in traditional. If you looked at a book like my own Blackbirds and used a single day’s worth of sales at Amazon, you’d have almost none of the picture of a) how it really sells and b) the money I’ve made from the book beyond just the book.

This is interesting, so far. Be curious to see where it goes from here, and if it starts to include more robust data. At present it seems like an interesting start, though one offering a limited timespan of data (a single day) that captures not so much actual data as it does an extrapolation of data. (Though again, maybe I’m misreading, here. Smart people: jump in.) Either way, good for Howey for getting this out there. One assumes over time the data here will start to sharpen and present something cutting. In the meantime, worth poking through this with a few sticks and seeing if we can get other folks to verify the data and conclusions from the data.

Your thoughts?

Chat it up, folks.